Thursday, June 25, 2009

Taking a Break

Won't be birding for a while since I got into a car accident on the 19th and totaled my car. (Granted, it doesn't take much to total a '96 Tercel.) I suppose it's sort of a blessing in disguise, since these days I've got plenty I need to think about and figure out. Academically, I need to make a major decision- do I repeat a year of classes in a major I'm not sure about or switch to something new? Hope it won't be too long until I bird again.

At least I have our family's week-long vacation in August to look forward to: renting a house in RI that's right next to a Wildlife Refuge :)

So, I'm relying on all of you to have fantastic birding adventures so that I can vicariously bird through you! :-P

Thursday, June 18, 2009

BwBTC and Mississippi Kite

Saturday morning saw me climbing into bed at midnight after getting home from work, and setting the alarm for 3 am again. In the car by 4, at the refuge by 5. I watched the terns fishing for a while, trying in vain to get decent pictures: I knew there wasn't enough light to capture the speeding birds without plenty of blur, but I couldn't keep myself from trying anyway. Watching terns, swallows, and swifts and their aerial acrobatics always makes me smile (and feel a little jealous).

I meandered my way down the refuge road, and bumped into Tom again. I met Tom on Monday-- he's an experienced, knowledgeable birder who is lucky enough to live just 10 minutes from the refuge. At the North Pool Overlook he helped me finally see an Eastern Meadowlark, a bird I've been anxious to see for months. Without Tom picking out the Meadowlark's song for me and pointing it out, I doubt very much that I would have seen it at all that day. Then we were pleased to see both a male Green-winged Teal and a male Blue-winged Teal in the pool. Both gave us good looks as they cruised by.
By then it was about quarter to 7, and I had to swing by the Visitor Center to see if the Birders who Blog, Tweet, and Chirp (BwBTC) were meeting there: I wasn't sure if the meeting time was at 7 or 8 am. I pulled in to the parking lot with another car, and not 10 seconds after I had parked, saw the other car's driver pull over, get out, examine a wheel, and exclaim his frustration. As it turned out, the driver was one of the BwBTC group-Andy. He had hit the curb and gotten a flat. Since Andy had purposefully given himself extra time in case of traffic, getting lost, etc. I sort of thought things would still work out okay. Unfortunately, Andy didn't end up coming along with us to Parker River.

The meeting time was at 8 am, but around 7:40 or so folks started pulling in. Introductions were made, and I tried to remember at least a few names--a feat even more difficult for me than trying to photograph terns in flight without sufficient light. Luckily, Dawn had brought name tags. She even made buttons for us all for the event! Thanks, Dawn! :-)

I felt a little silly since Christopher's Blog was the only one I was actually familiar with, but now I've added several more birding blogs to the list of ones I follow! It was really nice to get to know some New England birders, since before now I've only gotten to know birders in New York around the Finger Lakes.

We figured out carpools and set off. First was Lot 1 to see the Purple Martins around their nest boxes and to try our luck seeing a Manx Shearwater or a Roseate Tern out over the ocean. No such luck. Christopher chatted with Plover Warden Janet and we decided to head straight for Sandy Point since it was Kids Go Fish! Day and the parking lots were sure to fill up quickly. Unfortunately, we weren't quite fast enough (kept getting distracted by those pesky things with feathers along the way), and there wasn't room for our little caravan when we arrived. We turned around and headed for the Hellcat Trails.

On the Marsh Loop we looked for the Virginia Rail, which wound up being a no-show, although we did hear a few calls from time to time. There were a few pairs of Gadwall and a few Marsh Wrens in the area, however.

Next we hung out near the Hellcat observation tower for a little bit while Chris went to meet Janet at the end of her shift. Then we would all reunite for a group photo. While there we enjoyed watching the industrious muskrats swim back and forth with cattails to use as construction supplies. Then we caught a brief look at a Least Bittern as it flew in front of our group. At this point I was starting to feel those 3 hours of sleep, and was more or less in autopilot mode. After the group picture I needed to head home to get ready for work.

Despite not getting to Sandy Point and the Virginia Rail being a no-show it really was a fantastic day of birding and socializing! I'm so glad Christopher invited me along and that I had the chance to meet so many other birders who, well, blog, tweet, and chirp! Now I just need to start using Twitter.....although I hear it's addicting!

Here's the list of everyone who attended the BwBTC event on Saturday:
Dawn & Jeff from Dawn's Bloggy Blog
Bev from Behind the Bins
John from Birding Maine
Sharon from A New England Life
Catie from Birding Girl
Janet from The Plover Warden Diaries
Steve from Shooting My Universe
Lauren (Lowie) from Worn Field Guide Blog
Laura from The Interstitial Spaces
Mark from Strack16 Blog
Dan from Nature Observances by Forestal

Yesterday I ventured out to Newmarket, NH to see the Mississippi Kite that is nesting there. The BwBTC group went out to see it after Plum Island, but I couldn't follow since I had work that evening. First I had a doctor's appointment in Newton, so believe it or not, I voluntarily used my dad's GPS. The world may be coming to an end, just FYI.

I haven't mentioned it before because I've never had a reason to, but I really don't trust technology too much. Yes, I'm blogging right now and using the internet, I do use technology to some extent. It's when machines start talking to me that I freak out (I've seen 2001 wayyyy too many times). So yea....give me a good old paper map over a GPS any day.....except, apparently, yesterday. *shrug*

ANYWAY: the folks in Newmarket I spoke with were all very friendly and helpful. I bumped into a couple of other birders who were there to see the Kite as well, and was treated to a peek through a scope at the bird sitting on its nest. I love when other birders let me peek through their scopes, it is much appreciated!! Several residents driving, biking, jogging, and walking by us inquired "Are the birds back again?!" upon seeing the three of us standing there with bins. This is the second year the Kite's been in Newmarket, and last year it was BIG news, understandably. I hung around for about an hour hoping to see the parents switch places sitting on the nest, hoping to see a Kite in flight, but no such luck.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Getting Up at 3 a.m. is Always Worth It

Hit the hay around 7:30 pm Sunday night with the alarm set to go off at 3 am. Out the door by 4 am. Arrived promptly in Lot 1 for dawn at 5:08 am. I was greeted by the Purple Martins and Tree Swallows as they darted around the nest boxes. A short stroll down the boardwalk brought me to the beach where a fisherman stood at the shoreline managing the three poles he had set-up. The clouds stayed close to the horizon, perhaps somewhat diminishing the beauty of sunrise over the Atlantic, but only ever so slightly.

I love waking up when it's still dark out to go birding, timing things so I'll arrive just at dawn, then racing the sun to my destination.

It was a great day of birding. I checked the listings of recent bird sightings at Plum Island before heading out, so I knew what to keep an eye out for. A Virginia Rail was apparently hanging around near the Hellcat Marsh Loop. When I talked to another birder I met up with, he told me it was most likely nesting near there, and that it was being quite boisterous and even walking around in plain sight in an effort to distract "predators" (birders, in this case) from the nesting site. When I walked the Hellcat Marsh Loop, that's exactly what I found. I took a couple brief videos with my camera and have posted them on YouTube. I was also delighted to come across a Marsh Wren building its nest, and have posted an additional video of this on YouTube. Unfortunately, all of the videos from yesterday are somewhat shaky, and for that I apologize.

Here are the totals for the species I counted yesterday:
13 adult Canada Geese and 17 fledglings
14 Mute Swans
12 Mallard drakes and 1 female
21 Double-crested Cormorants
6 Snowy Egrets
5 Great Egrets
(4 unidentified Egrets)
3 Turkey Vultures
2 Piping Plovers
8 Killdeer
12 Mourning Doves
18 Eastern Kingbirds
1 Blue Jay
6 American Crows
3 Black-capped Chickadees
8 Robins
29 Gray Catbirds
5 Northern Mockingbirds
14 Brown Thrashers
16 Cedar Waxwings
12 Yellow Warblers
2 Common Yellowthroats
3 male and 1 female Eastern Towhee
16 Song Sparrows
1 male Cardinal
12 male Bobolinks
21 male and 6 female Red-winged Blackbirds
3 male and 1 female Brown-Headed Cowbird
3 male American Goldfinches

Please note that this list only reflects the particular species that I made an effort to count. I'll be honest and say that I made no effort to count the gulls, terns, sandpipers, martins, swallows, House Sparrows, or grackles.

Lifers for yesterday include:
  • Virginia Rail
  • Least Tern
There are more to add to the lifer list for yesterday, I just need some ID help. I'll post an update when I know, maybe even be wild and do it via cell phone.

I've again decided to post my pictures on my shutterfly site instead of uploading them here: it just me, or do I sound very stuffy lately? I seem like such a stick-in-the-mud dope when I reread this stuff. I swear my usual antics are exceedingly entertaining.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Parker River NWR May 30+31

May 30th and 31st I had off from work, so I treated myself to a trip to Plum Island both days. I've decided to post the pictures on my shutterfly site for better viewing:

May 30th I added at least 4.5 lifers to my list. I know, I know: .5?? Let me explain: I have seen a Woodcock before, but the encounter reflected this bird's reputation in that it was very brief and I didn't wind up getting a particularly good view or a picture. Although the woodcock is known for being elusive, it is very distinct in its appearance, and that allowed me to identify it at the time despite the circumstances. May 30th, however, was entirely different. Within 5 minutes of pulling into the refuge, I almost drove right past one that was just hanging out by the side of the road! It wasn't even just after dawn--I had gotten a late start that day, and the time was 8:42 am! I pulled over and was treated to several great pictures of this spectacular bird, it was a wonderful way to start the day, and I admit I took it as a good omen. Later on, talking to some other birders, I found out that apparently woodcocks often perform their courting ritual in the parking lot to the Hellcat trails at dusk.

My other lifers for the day:
Savannah Sparrow
Least Bittern
Purple Martin

I believe there are some others, as well. I just need to process the photos I took and identify the shorebirds I'm not sure about [one of them is picture 32 in the shutterfly album, I'd appreciate any help :) ].

I should mention that the last 3 photos in the album were actually taken in Gloucester, not at Parker River. You'll also notice a turtle portrait in the album--I discovered this Eastern Painted Turtle just chillin' smack dab in the middle of the refuge road. It struck me as a poor choice of hang outs, so I somewhat timidly picked the fella up and set him down about a foot off from the side of the road in some low grasses.

My May 31st visit saw "only" one lifer--a very special bird indeed--the precious Piping Plover. I was beyond thrilled to watch an adult foraging along the sand at Sandy Point, and couldn't get over the fact that most people just simply walked right on by the bird. There are signs all over the refuge and barriers set up to protect nesting areas, so I assume most people must be aware of their presence. A large stretch of the beach at Plum Island is blocked off every year for the Piping Plovers. I couldn't (and still can't) decide if all of this uninterested people simply didn't know it was a Piping Plover and took it to be "just another shorebird" or if they were locals who see them each year. In any case, I managed to get several shots before getting chased out by the rain.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.